Thursday, December 18, 2014

2008 Elite Citizen Scholars: Where are they now?

By The Herald Staff | 5/17/2013

The Ottawa Herald caught up with students who were selected as Elite Citizen Scholars in 2008. Five years later, where are they? What have they accomplished so far?

Meghan Rush, Wellsville High School

The Ottawa Herald caught up with students who were selected as Elite Citizen Scholars in 2008. Five years later, where are they? What have they accomplished so far?

Meghan Rush, Wellsville High School

It took two years to finally decide, but Meghan Rush couldn’t be happier with her choice to pursue a degree in wildlife and outdoor enterprise management.

A lifelong outdoorswoman, Rush, 22, said the relatively obscure discipline at Kansas State University quickly appealed to her interests of wildlife and hunting. And with her graduation this weekend, Rush will be only the second woman from K-State to earn the degree.

“It was open option for two years, and I explored a lot of different majors and none of them fit,” Rush, a 2008 graduate of Wellsville High School, said. “I thought about literature, teaching, nursing ... and none of them I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. Then I heard about the new program, and once I looked into it, I was hooked.”

The major, which was developed three years ago and is a part of the university’s department of agriculture, affords students a variety of nature- and outdoor-orientated career opportunities, Rush said. While the discipline primarily is geared toward equipping students with the tools to start their own outdoor-related startup, Rush said she complemented her degree with a minor in business.

To attain the degree, Rush said, she completed a variety of “skills” classes, which included such courses as “Principles and Practices of Big Game Hunting,” “Bowhunting Equipment and Skills” and “Wildlife Habitat/Food Plot Installation and Maintenance.” The coursework also aims to develop professional managers, and incorporates a series of business, hospitality management, natural resources, wildlife and fisheries management classes, K-State’s website says. The industry apparently is popular, with the university reporting about 87.5 million Americans participating in wildlife-related recreation with total expenditures of about $122 billion.

“I looked at what I could offer professionally, and I thought, ‘Well that’s different, and it’s kind of a niche and there’s a little bit of a demand,” Rush said. “I looked at the classes and thought I could do this, and they look really fun. ... I’ve always wanted to study wildlife.”

Rush said she plans to pursue a career in environmental consulting, and already has secured a job with Ecology and Environment, which has an office in Kansas City, Kan.

Brianne Hull, West Franklin High School

Brianne Hull has found her passion, she said.

Hull, formerly Roberts, a 2008 graduate of West Franklin High School, just finished an internship at Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tenn., where she fell in love ... with old technology.

“I interned and basically learned the art of letterpress and it was two months of amazing learning and meeting people who are interested in the same things as me,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”

Hatch Show Print is the oldest, continuously run print shop in the U.S., she said. Letterpress, the oldest form of printing, is done by putting blocks of letters or images and paper together with ink in between.

“It’s the basic form of graphics design. That’s how people used to have to design things was with a letterpress,” she said. “I like the fact that I can stand up and physically put things together to design instead of just clicking around [on a computer].”

Her love for letterpress printing was something she thought she had stumbled upon during a college workshop, but Hull said she realized it was much more than that.

“My great-grandparents were the Tallmans, who ran The Ottawa Times and they were a print shop,” she said. “We had a workshop at school where the manager of Hatch [Show Print] came and showed us letterpress, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is awesome.’”

After falling in love with the art of letterpress, she continued to pursue her dream and apply for the internship at the shop, she said.

“I figured I would try for Hatch [Show Print] and I thought I would never make it and I did and I just fell even more in love with it,” Hull said. “The fact that that’s what my great-grandparents did to make their living, I just feel like it was already in my blood, but I just needed to learn the basics from somebody.”

Hull is looking for a job in a letterpress shop, she said, but finding one might be too far out of reach.

“There’s a really great community in Kansas City that I talked to a few weeks ago,” she said. “I went up [to Kansas City] when there was an expo and I got to talk to a lot of different printers and they invited me to come by their shops and stuff like that which is amazing. I have the next few weeks to do that, but it’d be driving over an hour every day to downtown Kansas City.”

If she ultimately decides not to pursue a career in Kansas City, Hull said, it won’t keep her from doing what she loves.

“I have a small press myself and I have type so I can do my own stuff,” she said. “I just love it.”

Vincent Ouellette, Central Heights High School

Vincent Ouellette’s plans have changed since he graduated from Central Heights High School in 2008.

Ouellette said he attended Kansas State University after graduation and received a degree in animal science, something he said he planned on doing in 2008 when he was nominated an Elite Citizen Scholar. Now, he said he’s going back to school to study industrial controls.

“I graduated last May with a degree in animal science,” he said. “I moved to Wisconsin in May, worked for Genex Corporation breeding dairy cows for six months after graduation. Then I moved back here in January [2013] and am attending JCCC studying electronics.”

After spending some time in Wisconsin, he said he realized the career path he had chosen was not turning out to be what he thought it would.

“I enjoyed what I was doing,” he said. “But it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Ouellette said he quickly turned his attention to electronics.

“I wanted to get into industrial controls because I like to fix things,” he said. “That is what that is a lot of, troubleshooting the controls and switches at things such as factories.”

Industrial controls are used in such places as industrial factories, he said. Factories can receive information and commands from remote locations to control devices being used in the factories, without having to be in or at those factories.

Ouellette said he hopes to get a job in industrial controls after he graduates from Johnson County Community College.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I have another year so I should graduate next May.”

After graduating from JCCC, Ouellette said, he’s not sure where he wants to work, just as long as he gets to tinker with electronics.

“I’m not looking at any particular place [to work],” he said. “I’m trying to keep my options open at this point in time.”

Megan Ketchum, Ottawa High School

A love of chemistry and teaching is producing a winning formula for Megan Ketchum.

The 2008 Ottawa High School graduate and Elite Citizen Scholar now is in the first year of a five-year doctorate program in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston, which, when completed, Ketchum said she hopes eventually will translate into a professorship with a university.

“I had previously wanted to go to medical school, but while working on my undergraduate degree I became a teaching assistant in the chemistry lab,” Ketchum said of her experience at the University of Kansas, where she graduated last May with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. “I taught about 20 students [in the chemistry lab], and I really enjoyed it, and they liked me and asked for extra sessions.”

That teaching experience prompted Ketchum to change her major to chemical engineering, she said.

“I enjoy interacting with people, and thought I might enjoy the research aspect as well,” Ketchum said. “I would like to become a professor at a university, but I want to get a job in the industry first — I’ve always thought the really good professors had industry experience, too.”

Ketchum, the daughter of William and Jan Ketchum of Ottawa, still is pursuing her interests in medicine through biomedical research, she said. At present, she said she is conducting research on malaria in order to discover better ways to treat it.

“The parasite is becoming resistant [to current medical treatments], and we need to stay ahead of it,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum would like to go to work in the research lab of a pharmaceutical firm, she said, before entering the world of academia as a professor. Ketchum said her goal isn’t necessarily to obtain a teaching position at KU or Houston.

“I haven’t really decided where I would like to teach — I just want to find a job with a good university,” she said.

Ketchum, 23, who makes it back to Ottawa about four times a year, said some of her OHS teachers helped her prepare for her career.

“I had some teachers [in high school] who went above and beyond, and they helped me become more confident and work harder,” Ketchum said. “Mr. [Martin] Peters taught chemistry my sophomore year, and that’s really where I developed my interest in chemistry. If he wouldn’t have taught me so well, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Ketchum, who said she likes exercising to relieve stress, said the key to balancing her demanding academic schedule and personal life is developing good time management skills.

“It’s all about good time management,” she said. “College is a whole new playing field. No one is there to take attendance or make sure you get to class on time — you have to get yourself to class every day. Showing up for class is half the work.”

Ketchum offered this advice for OHS seniors preparing to enter college:

“Look for a career that really fits your interests,” she said, “look for something you can be passionate about.”

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